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[2007: JUL-AUG] *WINNER* The Missing Statue


Toni
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"The Missing Statue" - by Danzia

Lt. Commander Lyn Taylor had a headache. Actually, she had about a hundred headaches. One of them was currently leaning across her desk, his huge ears about six inches from her face.

"I want this investigated. And I want it investigated by an actual security officer, not somebody's fee-male!" Laruk was leaning on the desk, totally getting in her personal space. He was wearing some kind of cologne that was probably pleasant...to a Ferengi.

Whoever the heck had thought it was smart to assign a female as chief of security on Deep Space 17... It happened to lie on the fastest direct route between two planets. One of them was a planet full of people desperate to spend money, namely Risa. The other was a planet full of people very keen to take that money away from them, namely Ferengar. The result was that ninety percent of the traders who came through were...Ferengi.

Lyn hated Ferengi. Oh yes, IDIC, and all of that. One was supposed to be tolerant. A StarFleet officer was not supposed to be sexist, racist and definitely not speciesist. She still hated Ferengi. "Captain Laruk," she responded with outward politeness. "I *am* the head of security on this station."

He almost exploded. "You are a fee-male. Go home and take off your clothes! And send me a..."

She actually cut him off, exasperated. "Your loss will be investigated." There were currently a hundred Ferengi on the station, counting their females. It was at least ninety-nine too many. And about fifty traders of other species. Along with the regulars...it was a huge number of people to check out. "No ship will leave without being searched. I promise. We will get it back."

Lurak snorted. "You had better. It's worth more than I'd pay for *you*."

An insult in Ferengi terms, but Lyn responded in kind. "No. *You* couldn't afford me."

He showed all of his teeth. "Perhaps not so bad after all, fee-male."

Lyn rolled her eyes. "Now. We can banter. Or I can look for your stolen statue. Which is it going to be?"

With a snort, Lurak finally left, although the smell of his hideous cologne lingered.

Lyn turned her attention to the holo he had left her. The statue was exquisite. She could see why he was so up in arms about its disappearance, which he, of course, insisted had to be theft.

Unfortunately, she had to privately agree that was a fairly likely explanation. The Elcoran Venus, as humans called it, came from a world where the native sapients had wiped themselves out, leaving a treasure trove for archaeologists. It was fairly likely it had been stolen in the first place, being an item that belonged in a museum not a private collection, but by this point, nobody could trace things back that far.

Lyn rolled her shoulders backwards. She had to consider that scumball the legitimate owner. No matter how little she liked it. And she had to not let her prejudice get in the way of the investigation. Besides. She couldn't pull in a hundred Ferengi at once. Or even sixty, if she excluded women and children.

So, she started by going over Lurak's story in her mind. The statue had not been left in cargo, or on station. He had kept it on his ship, which was a two-person freighter. The second person was his teenaged son, Mirk, whom he was 'teaching the trade'. Ferengi education worked very much on the apprenticeship system, but Lurak gave vibes that indicated he might be using Mirk as free labor.

So, the boy was the prime subject. He had access, he might well have a motive...for that matter, he might have taken the thing and sold it. That would be the best outcome, because in Ferengi terms *that* wasn't a crime. It was entrepreneurship.

She let out a breath she didn't realize she was holding. Talk to the kid first. Or...maybe get somebody else to talk to the kid. He was an adolescent boy, he would probably relate better to a male than an adult woman of any species. She'd get Ensign Townsend to do it. He was the closest she had to the kid's age.

* * * * *

Four hours later, Lyn was no closer to a solution to Lurak's missing statue. On top of that, a cage full of four Capsuchin monkeys had been dropped on the promenade, with the rather predictable results that the monkeys...apparently somebody had been planning on selling them has pets, had got out. They were still somewhere in the station's ventilation system.

Townsend had talked to Mirk and discovered him to be, outwardly at least, a dull-witted lad. Now...leaving the younger officers to the monkey hunt...Lyn stood on the transporter pad, arguing with Lurak.

"It's not still on the ship! I searched!"

Deep breath. Lyn regarded the Ferengi. "Sometimes, what one person can miss, another can spot easily. Somebody else needs to search the ship. Or are you afraid I'll find you're carrying contraband?"

Lurak spluttered. Of course. Every trader carried *some* kind of contraband. She'd confiscated three crates of Romulan Ale only the other day. Wouldn't have bothered, except that the freighter captain concerned had been an insufferable [...]. And one of the perks of station security was that she would be able to find a...use...for the beverage. Not that she could stand the stuff herself.

Lyn smiled. "Look. I don't care if you have Romulan ale or illicit drugs...as long as it's not elradin."

He glared at her. "Only the Orions trade in *that* [...]."

Lyn thought that the moral differences between Orions and Ferengi were pretty minor, but she didn't voice that. "I didn't think you had any. Now. Let me take a look."

Three hours later, with Lurak staring over her shoulder the entire time, she was forced to admit the statue was not on the ship. Not even in Mirk's quarters, which had apparently not been tidied since the invention of the warp drive. In some ways, it seems, Ferengi teenaged boys were not really any different from human ones.

Towards the end of the tour, though, Lurak admitted somebody else had been on board. He had hired a couple of station siders to take a look at a 'vibration' in his impulse drives, one which he had not been able to locate himself. And Mirk was apparently useless, at least if even a quarter of what his father said about him was to be believed. The boy was along in a vain attempt to turn him into something resembling a decent Ferengi. His only talent seemed to be writing poetry.

Privately, Lyn thought writing poetry was a reasonable talent. But it generally didn't make much profit. The kid *was* better off learning a trade and writing as a hobby.

She could not, however, believe he was the perpetrator. It would have been far, far too much work for him to steal anything! She now had another lead, though. She beamed back to the station, only to find out that the monkeys had found their way into station ops.

But they had found something else, too. Tucked in the corner of a Jeffries tube was a certain missing statue.

* * * * *

Lyn now made her way down the promenade with a box that screeched loudly. She was, of course, personally returning the little creatures to their owner. Fortunately, they had not actually bitten anyone and had done remarkably little damage. In fact, Lieutenant Sel, the Bajoran who had been the watch officer was seriously considering buying one. Lyn thought she was crazy. The thing would get out all the time.

The monkeys deposited where they belonged, she made her next stop. A little visit to the freelance engineers Lurak had hired. There were several such outfits on the station and they did a roaring trade. Primarily, they sold parts and worked as troubleshooters, helping ship owners who did not quite have the skills to fix or diagnose a problem. This particular pair, though, were the most unlikely thieves she had ever met or heard of.

Hayley Martins was human, and ex StarFleet. She was one of those for whom the pseudo-military discipline had not suited, and after receiving reprimand after reprimand had quit to go commercial. She wore her hair dyed blonde and her short top revealed several tattoos, more than one of which would have earned her such a reprimand. Her partner, Korog, was the smallest and scrawniest Klingon Lyn had ever encountered. Probably why he had left an Empire which still valued physical prowess. They were each other's alibi...they could only have stolen the statue if they had both been working together.

Both had the same story. They had beamed over to Lurak's ship and discovered that his problem was a minor misalignment that had been, apparently, correcting itself as intervals. It was essentially a 'loose connection', always a problem to find, but easy to fix. They had not been anywhere but the transporter room and engineering. The sullen Mirk had not let them out of his sight. Apparently, he was good for something. He had spent the time while they worked on repairs reading a video magazine.

Lyn still somewhat suspected him. He was their alibi...partly. They admitted he'd left a couple of times, once to deal with personal needs, and once to go to the galley to get them some water. Engineering could be thirst-inducing work. Then, Korog slipped up.

One of the tricks one used in interrogating theft suspects was not to mention the nature of what had been stolen. Lyn had been careful to call the statue an 'item' all the way through. But Korog specifically said statue. Although she didn't find it searching their shop or their quarters...she knew who had done it.

The question was what to do about it. She did not have enough evidence to arrest them yet...for that, she needed the item concerned or, say, an unexplained large deposit into their account. They did not seem to have it any more, so they had probably already fenced it. Except, who on this outpost station would buy it? With a sigh she realized she was going to, after all, have to investigate every single trader here. She came out of the shop hoping she had not let them know she was onto them.

And nearly bumped into Mirk.

The boy did not look happy. Far from it, in fact. "Are you...are you going to arrest those people?" He didn't know where to look at her, probably not at all used to women out in public. She wondered where his mother was. Ferengar, probably.

"No..." A pause. "But don't tell your dad, it does seem they took it. I just have to prove it."

"And if you told dad, he'd go after them himself," the boy finished for her. He wasn't looking at her at all now. He was kinda looking past her. The body language of somebody experiencing intense guilt.

"Mirk. What's wrong?" She tried to be gentle. He was a Ferengi, but he *was* just a kid.

"I..." A pause. "I don't want somebody to be put in the brig for something they didn't do." Another pause. He actually scuffed his feet, looking down at the floor.

"You're...telling me they didn't?" Lyn was actually incredulous. "How did they know it was a statue if they didn't take it?"

"'Cause my dad asked them if they knew anyone who might buy it. Wouldn't be hard to guess. He was asking everyone. Nobody wanted it. It was...umm. Not quite hot, but warm. Know what I mean?"

Lyn knew exactly what he meant. 'Doubtful provenance' was always a problem in the art business. "Did you take it?" She'd already asked him. He'd said no.

"Yes. No. Not exactly. Umm. Can I show you something?"

He turned to head down the promenade. Frowning, Lyn followed. The kid turned into a side alleyway, and then removed a loose grating. She noticed, with some amusement, that the grating was just loose enough to admit, oh. A small monkey. So *that* was how they had got into the Jeffries tubes and whence into the ventilation system.

"It's gone!" he exclaimed.

Lyn nodded. "We found it when searching the station for some escaped monkeys. Why did you take it?"

He made no move to run off. "I didn't. Dad told me to hide it. Then he could report it stolen and..."

"...claim the insurance money. Oldest scam in the book." Anything for profit, was that right?

Mirk nodded. "He hated the thing, was desperate to sell it. He told me to beam it into space. But I just couldn't..."

Lyn actually smiled. "You know. I think we can work something out."

And by the next day it was all sorted out. The statue was on its way to a museum, where it would be appreciated...or not...it truly was ugly. Lurak had received a reasonable sum of latinum and had made a promise Lyn knew he wouldn't keep not to pull stunts like that again. And Mirk?

Mirk was staying on Deep Space 17. His father had completely disowned the kid, but he was not at all unhappy about it.

After all. He did not want to be a freighter captain. He much preferred the idea of running...a bookstore. And Lyn knew somebody who needed quite a bit of help in that regard.

Maybe Ferengi weren't so bad. Well, some of them?

Edited by Jenna
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